Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Trials of NAAM

I feel that for many adoptees, National Adoption (Awareness) month is like running a painful obstacle course.

November is terrible. I always feel myself sliding down in October, and then I remember, "Oh, fucking NAAM."

I have felt suicidal in November more times than I can count. It's not a lucky month for me, although my father loved the number 11 and I do feel him with me. Thank goodness this year I have been on my anti-depressants for a long time now; the dent in me is palpable, but I am not going down, not this time.

I have been in too many fruitless, annoying conversations with adoptive parents who told me that I am better off dead, on the street, or back in a fictional orphanage; with birth parents who wrote over my story, MY STORY, to tell me that I need to think about how my mother felt (uh, no, adoptees do get a turn, and it's not my job to talk about you); and from adoptees who are all over the place: specifically, telling others that "negativity" (however one defines that) "ruins" adoptions for others, or telling me that asking questions was uncalled for when they backed a pro-adoptive parenting award. I said, "Is it wise to time this award during NAAM when adoptee voices are already the least heard?" The response "It's unwise to question things that are already in motion," I think is the paraphrase, which makes no sense at all.

No, I won't be silent. No, I won't tell you that it's all right. No, I won't agree to disagree when you are abusive and wrong. If you want to get into the ring, be prepared. As a friend told me not long ago, I give as good as I get, so don't think I will bend to your discombobulated rudeness.

I was thinking about times in the past when civilians have said shocking and appalling things to me about my being an adoptee. Not everyone is an asshole, but many are.

My mother-in-law, that demon on earth, told me that she couldn't understand how my parents would bring me into their home: I was like an animal from the pound with unknown pedigree, and what if I turned out to be JEWISH? Um Gottes Willen. She died before I found out that I am Jewish, but also a descendant of Prince Metternich. My great-grandmother grew up in the family castle in Koblenz. I am not sure which of these I would more have enjoyed throwing in her face. Sadly, one can't properly enjoy Schadenfreude when your opponent is deceased.

I had someone I like tell me last night, in all naivety, that he likes it when people can have a sense of humor, and isn't it funny when siblings in families say "You're adopted!" to be mean. Is it funny? I guess, maybe to civilians. I refrained from saying anything, but there it lay between us. Adoptees are  funny. Ha. So funny. At times it is refreshing to see people with their masks and gloves off as a reminder of how society sees us. We are disposable jokes, no getting around it.

Then there is the memory I can't shake, the one that was so over the top that even I, with the thin skin of an adoptee, knows was a blast from some unmoored place inside the person who made the comments. It made no sense at all. It was beyond tone-policing to near insanity.

"What was your adoptive family like? How did your upbringing with your adoptive family not fit who you are? This information would give more meaning to the intro paragraphs. How lost, alone, foreign, are you in your life so far, that would propel you to pursue your birth mom like that? Even little glimpses into memories would help to draw the reader into your predicament. Were you emotionally abused? Physically? Did they put you in a cupboard under the stairs like Harry Potter?

The recognition that birth moms give two precious gifts to their adopted out children...First, the ultimate gift, the gift of LIFE. Second, the gift of self-awareness that for whatever reasons, they are incapable of giving a child the love and care they need, so they let them go, in hopes of a better life. Wow. Just wow. This recognition is a piece that feels missing from your story. 

The glimpses you reveal about [your mother's] past are important. Hiding the pregnancy, wearing a girdle, drunk at a party. I want more of this, and I want a more compassionate exploration of her experience. Was she raped? Was she living at home, hiding her growing belly from her parents, or from her dorm-mates or sorority sisters? This seems to me to be heroic, and I feel these details are tossed off in an almost dismissive way because you are so angry. I really think that your idea of writing from [your mother’s] perspective would be a very valuable next step. To dive into the story of your pregnancy and her decision to carry you although she could not keep you. To heal.

I hope you aren't offended by these comments."

Seriously? SERIOUSLY? More about my mother, and BE NICE and HEAL? Well, you can imagine that I didn't take this non-criticism passively. I don't have time for this kind of garbage, self-indulgent, emotional reaction. People say, "Oh, but you have to teach, to educate." At what price? Maybe before people make sweeping judgments about adoptees' lives and writ awful things about us, they could take stock of their own reactions and feelings--but somehow I doubt that will happen anytime soon. Humans are imperfect, and in general so unthinking and in love with themselves.

Fear, insecurity, and narcissism make for bad companions, and NAAM sure brings them out of the woodwork.

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